A few minutes later a physician and a guard came into the cell, the physician with his arms full of bandages and the guard with a drawn sword. The guard closed the door behind them and stood there to wait for the physician who began to fix Merlin up.
“Is he going to be alright?” Arthur asked as the physician tied off the bandage that went around the gash and broken rib on Merlin’s torso.
“Yes. It’s nothing too serious but he needs to be kept warm and eat something.” The physician eyed the guard crossly. It seemed that he did not like the way things were run around here.
“I’ll get them some food.” The guard sighed and they went out the door.
He returned half an hour later with two bowls of soup on a tray.
“Boss wants to see you, so hurry up.” He grunted and locked the door behind him, after having set the tray on the floor.
Arthur got the tray and handed a bowl to Merlin before taking his own.
“Met the boss yet?” Merlin asked, wolfing down the stew hungrily.
“No.” Arthur said, stirring the soup thoughtfully with a spoon. He was hungry, in fact starving would be a better word, but he was wondering what he was going to say to this “boss.” Would it be a good idea to tell him his name and position or not…
“Are you going to tell them who you are?” Merlin voiced his thoughts, getting the last traces of the soup out with his tounge, lacking a table to have manners with.
“I don’t know.” Arthur picked at the soup half-heartedly.
There was a pause.
“Do you want this?” He asked, nudging Merlin with the bowl.
“Why? Don’t you?”
“Are you sur-“
“Take it or wear it Merlin. You always did look half starved.” Arthur said, shoving the bowl into Merlin’s hands.
Merlin knew better than to argue and took the soup. He gulped down the warm liquid hungrily. It seemed like years since he had eaten.
He wondered why Arthur was suddenly being so generous but he dared not ask when the prince was obviously in deep thought. He was probably thinking about what he was going to say.
He finished the soup and licked his lips for the last traces of food. He really was famished.
Suddenly there was the pattering of footsteps outside the door and the lock on the door clicked. Three men entered the room. Arthur didn’t know any of them.
Merlin flinched as one of the men pulled him up roughly and tied his hands behind his back, jolting his broken rib in the process.
They were dragged by the ropes out of the cave and down a short passageway that soon led out into the open air.
They seemed to have just emerged from a cliff wall and into a large camp that had been positioned in the shadow of the rock face. There were tents, fires, sitting logs and dozens of rough looking men milling about, all covered in dangerous looking weapons. The floor was covered in brown leaves, as were the oak trees that surrounded the entire settlement.
The place looked as though it was about to go to war, with all the hustle and bustle that was going on.
They were led into a large, dull red, animal skin tent that smelled of old boots and wine, where they found a few people pouring over a table of maps and diagrams.
Finnie was one of them, his fiery orange hair sticking up through his fingers as he ran a hand over his head. There were a few other people in the tent but their presents were overlapped by the commanding aura of a man who stood behind the table that was situated inside the tent.
He had a long shaggy mane of black hair that fell to his broad shoulders and wore a frayed brown shirt, a large necklace of what might have been bird beaks, as well as a grey tabard that had an intricate symbol imprinted on the chest. His weathered face was disfigured with dozens of deep scars, one of which ran across his right eye, causing it to be dull and unseeing. His other eye however was a deep, almost black, brown that could be clearly seen, even though he had yet to lift his head and acknowledge their entrance to the tent.
“Ahh, my two newest captives.” He said in a gruff voice, not looking up.
“We found them by the river, Almaric. We reckon they’re spies from the other side.” Finnie said.
“Spies? Well, speak up. Who are you?” Almaric raised his eyes from the table, looking at Merlin and Arthur whilst taking a swig of gin from a flagon in his hand.
“We are not spies. I am prince Arthur or Camelot and this is Merlin, my manservant.” Arthur replied, his face stony.
The tent burst into laughter, causing Arthur’s face to become even harder.
Merlin could see why they were laughing however. Arthur looked anything but a prince in his unkempt state, slightly stubbly from lack of shaving and his clothes filthy.
“Ooh! Does little prince Artie want his crown? Does he want his ickle soldiers to protect him?” One of the men sneered mockingly, sending a glob of spit into Arthur’s eye.
In a split second the prince had wrapped a foot around the other mans ankle, unbalancing him and causing him to crash to the floor. The guard behind Arthur immediately cuffed him hard round the head and shoved him down to his knees, his fingers digging painfully into the princes shoulder.
“Why you-!” The man began, springing up and holding a threatening fist above his head.
“Let it go, Kaden.” Almaric growled, grabbing the man’s wrist with a large hand.
The man yanked his arm free and muttered something Merlin didn’t quite hear (which was probably a good thing) and stalked out of the tent, shooting a murderous look at Arthur who returned the stare with one equally vicious.
Arthur attempted to climb to his feet but the guard behind him just tighten his grip on the prince’s shoulder, making him flinch with pain.
“What do we do with ‘em then? We could just let them go. They weren’t doing us any harm.” Finnie grunted from his corner of the table.
“Finnie, Finnie, Finnie. You may be my Leftenant but you still have a lot to learn.” Almaric said, taking another mouthful of Gin.
“Why? What did you have in mind?”
“They know where our camp is so spies or not they’re a potential threat.”
“So we kill them?”
“Hang on a min-“ Merlin started but only earned a cuff round the head and a shove to the ground, like Arthur before him.
“Oh we’ll kill them alright but we need to make an example of them. Show that lot over the river whose boss.” Almaric mused.
“How about the crow cages?”
“Yes, very good! You’re learning Finnie.” Almaric said and knocked his Leftenant on the shoulder.
“The what cages?” Arthur asked.
“You’ll know soon enough!” Almaric smiled nastily, “We’ll take ‘em up at noon tomorrow. It’ll be hottest then, more uncomfortable.”
Finnie snapped his fingers and Merlin and Arthur were dragged to their feet, to be led back to the dungeon in the cliff wall.